To enable visitors to observe and enjoy the landscapes, plants and animals, we have created three circular walks, ranging in length from half a mile, to two and a half miles. All paths are colour coded and way marked, starting from the Visitor Centre.
The Old Deer Park Walk – Red Markers (2.5 miles)
Whichever way round you decide to walk this popular route you will be travelling with evidence of the Estate’s history all about you.
The path is mostly hard roads, laid down for access during the wartime occupation. Once busy with jeeps and bustling with U.S. airmen they take the walker past the remnants of the deer park boundary still lined with its veteran oaks on the park bank and home to a vast array of wildlife. The park once held a large herd of fallow deer kept in by a wooden paling fence. The new deer fence now serves the opposite purpose keeping deer out in order to protect the ornamental plantings in the Arboretum.
A short section of the avenue is not on a hard surface and through here carriages would have been driven on their way to Marks Hall Mansion. It is in this area that there is the best chance of seeing the Silver Washed Fritillary. This strikingly beautiful butterfly disappeared from Essex in the 1950s but has recently been reintroduced by the Trust as part of an extensive conservation programme. They are on the wing in July and August and are often seen under the avenue trees.
Bench Meadow Wood Walk – Yellow Markers (3/4 mile)
The path up the sloping grass field (called Bench meadow) from the Visitor Centre offers some of the nicest views over the Estate and a landscape that has changed little in hundreds of years. Sitting on the ridge is Marigolds, the old Estate dower house with its Gothic style windows and tall chimneys. Slightly to the left of this you can see the Lakes, Coach House and other Estate buildings in front of which once stood Marks Hall Mansion.
It is difficult to imagine as you look across at it now, that in the war years, Bench Meadow was covered with huts to provide homes for the hundreds of airmen stationed here whilst serving at Earls Colne Airfield. Just one of several barrack sites on the Estate. Today few signs of all this wartime activity remain, most notably the concrete road that leads you back towards the Visitor Centre.
Crowlands Wood Walk – Blue Markers (2 miles)
This walk follows the same route as Bench Meadow walk for the first ½ mile. It then continues through and around Crowlands Wood one of our most ancient woodlands. These woodlands are managed as traditional coppice with standards. Coppicing involves cutting the underwood or ‘spring’ repeatedly every 20 years or so making them very valuable for wildlife. Whatever time of year you walk this route you will stand a good chance of seeing some resident fallow deer that make these woods their home. On misty days their grunting during the rut echoes through the woods. In spring time there is a carpet of bluebells and nightingales and other spring migrants can be heard.